The Darker Corners of Pinocchio

Pinocchio
Not as welcoming as it looks

Walt Disney is known for making high-grossing animated movies before and after the death of its founder Walt Disney himself. Usually, there is something to be seen in many Disney movies ranging from the 1930’s to the 1990’s. Some of them were darker than others with Hunchback of Notre Dame usually taking the cake, some even putting Black Cauldron and Sleeping Beauty up on that special pedestal. However, one Disney movie sets itself apart from the rest. It took enough liberties with their storytelling to an extent that even the artists behind the Hunchback of Notre Dame did not dare to attempt. No Disney movie dared to attempt what Pinocchio did. Pinocchio is probably the darkest of all Disney films.

Pinocchio is known, far and wide as the puppet who strived to become a boy, who learned to live up to the qualities required of a real boy: to be ‘brave, truthful and unselfish.’ His quest is the primary plot with deviations and digressions, telling the story so realistically it puts modern kids to shame. What is the first thing that comes to mind about Pinocchio? ‘Don’t lie’ or something along those lines, perhaps his status as a puppet, and it is a shame because there is so much more to that movie. That movie, for its lesson, tells a whole pack of truths to an extent it hurts. The truth hurts, especially when it is implicit. In Pinocchio, the truth does hurt and partly because its messages are not implicit at all. In some cases, they are in the open.

To see this, every last truth, lie, lesson, virtue and villain Pinocchio has to offer must be examined. When the movie starts, it begins with the famous When you Wish Upon a Star sequence and skip to Gepetto finishing his latest wooden creation. This creation is a puppet he names Pinocchio. But the man who lives alone with his cat and goldfish has the craziest wish ever. He wishes that his puppet would come to life. The wish is granted by none other than our basic deus ex machina, the Blue Fairy. She decides that Gepetto deserves to have his wish granted, and gives Pinocchio the gift of life. However, this is as far as she goes before laying the burden on Pinocchio to prove himself before being made of flesh and blood. This is what leads us to the first lie of the movie and ironically it is not told by Pinocchio.

The Blue Fairy
Disney’s first Fairy might actually be a liar.

“Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish, and someday you will be a real boy.”

“And always let your conscience be your guide.”

And our favorite little cricket, Jiminy explains in eloquent words…

that still small voice that people won’t listen. That’s just the trouble with the world today.”

These lines hold, from the beginning till the end as the most important and oft-spoken lines in the movie. And these lines are lies. Not in the conventional sense but lies nonetheless, lies in the sense that the Blue Fairy tells Pinocchio to prove himself in ways no other person in the movie could. What was it Jiminy said about a conscience? People do not listen to their conscience, the vast majority of humans in the movie are terrible, even kids Pinocchio’s own age go astray, and Pinocchio is nonetheless asked to become the lone light in a sea of darkness. The Blue Fairy gives Pinocchio what is basically to be seen as the model for a live human being, which is a lie. No human in the movie acts like this so it must be assumed that the Blue Fairy wants Pinocchio to be that model. In other words, Pinocchio must complete a task which is perhaps more impossible than any protagonist has ever had to complete in a Disney movie.

Is it impossible that a Prince armed with a sword and shield and backed by three fairies can defeat a dragon? Is it impossible that seven angry dwarves can defeat an old witch who unfortunately lacks her usual Potions? Is it impossible that a street rat can trick a mad sorcerer into becoming a genie by taking advantage of his pride? Last but not least, is it impossible that Paris successfully revolts against a crazed judge who decided to bring the fight to their most precious cathedral in the square? In Pinocchio, it only gets harder.

"Oh, sword of truth fly swift and sure, that evil die and good endure."
“Oh, sword of truth fly swift and sure, that evil die and good endure.”

The rest of the lies are told by Pinocchio. Or are they? Pinocchio has every intention of going to school. In fact, he is well on his way until the first two villains we meet take him away and convince him to become an actor in the theater. He is lured away by Mr. Honest John Foulfellow whose very name screams of irony. Pinocchio is an instant success in the theater to such an extent, Jiminy Cricket starts to doubt himself. Perhaps Jiminy was wrong. The temptations the fairy warned against seem to be affecting even our guide. But when the Puppet master Stromboli locks Pinocchio in, Jiminy pops in to help and the wooden puppet realizes where he went wrong. This, in that sense represents the very first lesson we are taught with another coming shortly. Acting is not a distinguished career no matter how much press they get. They get used, abused and thrown away and Pinocchio was no different. He is locked, the cage is rusted, and Jiminy is incapable of helping.

Enter: The Blue Fairy for the second time. Her first action was giving Pinocchio life, now she meets him again for another talk, another lesson, and some last bit of magic. She asks him why he did not go to school and Pinocchio starts with the truth.

“I was going to school till I met somebody.”

Unfortunately, his nose starts growing as he continues to emphasize that he met two monsters. This was perceived as a lie, of course but the audience knows better. Was it really a lie? Was Honest John not a monster? Was Stromboli just being innocent? Was John’s sidekick just there? Many could very well perceive those two characters (three counting the sidekick fox) as monsters, making Pinocchio’s first words a truth. As the movie portrays it as a lie, here again is the second lie told by either the movie or Pinocchio himself, depending on how it is spun.

It does not end there either. The Blue Fairy plays along and questions Pinocchio as to whether he was afraid. Pinocchio insists he was not afraid but he was tied in a sack. Yet again, his nose grows but depending on how it is perceived, the lie is told by the movie or the character. Pinocchio was not exactly tied in a sack but when he is clearly in a cage at the time, it is not the worst lie to tell either. In fact, it is a sort of truth. Pinocchio was trapped, tripped, sent to the theater, used, abused, and locked up. Unfortunately, it is not big enough of a truth and he is humiliated once more. (Though in all honesty, the real lie was when he said Jiminy was tied too.) Pinocchio and Jiminy start noticing the large nose.

The Fairy questions him further and asks how he escaped. Pinocchio says he did not escape, which is the complete truth when related to the previous ‘lie’ but he was chopped into firewood. This is perhaps a real lie. But it is worthy to mention what Stromboli said after he locked Pinocchio in the cage/sack.

“When you are growing too old, you will make good firewood.”

The threat to be made into firewood was certainly there. In fact, in a way none of what Pinocchio said was a lie. He did meet two monsters, he was tied up, and he was threatened with being chopped into firewood. Maybe the truth was stretched a little bit but by no means a complete lie. Or of course, the Fairy counts stretched truths as lies and nonetheless grew his nose to warn him against such trickery. They were lies nonetheless told by either Pinocchio or the movie itself. The very idea that the movie may be the one telling the lie is astounding.

“A boy who won’t be good may just as well be made of wood.”

Thankfully, Pinocchio swears to never lie again and the Fairy forgives but warns that this would be the last time she could help. She thus far served as the solution to two problems: She gave Pinocchio life and freed him from the cage/sack he was so clearly trapped in. She proceeded to warn Pinocchio that the rest of the journey must be taken alone. Was this in fact the last time the fairy helped and served as the solution to all problems? It is also worthy of note that in this scene, everything is grey except Pinocchio, the fairy, and Jiminy. This ties in with the point that Pinocchio is the sole light in a world of evil.

"Very well, but this is the last time I can help you."
“Very well, but this is the last time I can help you.”

Thus far, the movie has been fine. No dark messages or meanings. By this point in Hunchback, a death has already happened. This scene, with its grey background and colored characters also marks the transition from bright colors earlier and simple problems to serious problems and dark demeanors. The next scene starts with Mr. Honest John and a new villain. A plump man in a red suit spills piles of gold provided Honest John gets him ‘stupid little boys’ to take to a place called ‘Pleasure Island,’ a place John implies is illegal, fearing the law might come after them. But the Coachman insists there is no risk because…

“They never come back as boys.”

This scene alone is screaming of dark, implicit messages a child might never understand. Later, there are explicit messages dark enough for a child’s mind and darker for an adult’s mind. The Coachman lays out his plan to traffic stupid little boys. Taking children from one area to another completely cut off from civilization is child trafficking. He offers gold to his pawns who now seem completely terrified of him as he whispers his plan to traffic the kids off to a nice little place called Pleasure Island. Honest John was not nearly as terrified of Stromboli. The way that scene played out was a clear indication of the power of the wealthy and what they do.

Once again, Honest John lures Pinocchio into his clutches under even more false pretenses. He convinces him he is ill and tells him to take some time off at Pleasure Island. Labeled by the movie as one of the ‘stupid little boys’ the Coachman was after, Pinocchio takes him up on the offer. Unbeknownst to them, Jiminy follows him secretly. Things get absolutely crazy, even for a Disney movie here. The first glimpse of Pleasure Island is maddening. One wonders how adults let children watch this movie?

Coachman
Go on. Tell me this is NOT child trafficking.

Pleasure Island is an amusement park where kids can do whatever they want. They can eat whatever they want, drink whatever they want, ice cream, dil pickles, beer, cigarettes, cigars, picking fights for the fun of it, destruction… all of them were mentioned explicitly.

“Smoke your heads off. There’s nobody here to stop you.”

Tobacco Row
They actually showed this!

And behind these already dark explicit overtones the movie makes, it cleverly hides something darker, even for adults. The best way to hide something dark is to coat it with something dark. Seeing a dark coat makes many think that there is no need to look behind something already so explicit. But there is something notorious about the evil Coachman. He is not just some big wealthy guy who puts kids to work in salt mines after turning them to donkeys which apparently symbolizes their stupidity. He is also a pedophile.

We already established that the Coachman is responsible for illegal child trafficking, transporting them to a Fun land called Pleasure Island, (a word that many adults associate directly with sex) and luring them there with fun, candy, anything a kid could want. In one scene, just before the Coachman talks with a small donkey named Alexander, he stripped clothes off of another donkey? It was not directly dealt with but implicit messages rarely are. Earlier, he insisted there was no risk in illegally trafficking children to an island cut off from civilization because…

“They never come back. As BOYS!”

Evil Coachman
It is no coincidence that this monster happens to have green eyes. And he looks like the devil himself in this shot.

There are two possible meanings to these words. Both are important to think about and no one said they are mutually exclusive. One is explicit and means that that they leave and when they come back, they are donkeys incapable of speech. He even gets rid of the ones who can talk, those who inexplicably still retain the power of speech such as Alexander, and only God knows what happens to them. But behind the explicit meaning is yet another meaning. Once a boy is abused by a pedophile, they are no longer boys in the sense that their innocence has been violated. Pleasure Island violates their innocence badly. They drink, they smoke, they fight, they destroy stuff… and then they become donkeys and therefore, scarred for life. Pedophilia does tend to scar the victim for life. Pinocchio is the best example. He survived the torture and escaped before it got too bad but his ears and tail and even random bray still remained, he was ashamed to speak of it to his father, was scared of even mentioning it because he was scarred from the experience.

As he sits on the beach, recovering from his painful ordeal, he gets a message from a dove sent by none other than the Blue Fairy. It is never explicitly stated it was in fact her but it can be no one else. It certainly was not the entrapped Gepetto and the dove was glowing white which reminds us of a heavenly figure. The Blue Fairy. The one who promised she would never help him again. The fairy, who told Pinocchio not to lie, lied. And she sets many things in motion, thankfully she is benevolent. She informs him that Gepetto was swallowed by a whale named Monstro. After a brief reunion and a smart attempt to orchestrate an escape, Pinocchio is ultimately killed saving his father from the whale.

Dead Pinocchio
Willingly gave his life to save his father… “Prove yourself brave truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy.”

Killed. The first Disney main character who is definitely and certainly dead on-screen. The cat cries over his corpse, the fish, the cricket, Gepetto, the audience, everyone. We’re all miserable because Disney only ever had a character fall into an eternal sleep to be awakened by true love’s first kiss. Now, the half-donkey character is explicitly dead. The boy who was scarred from an experience was given a release from it and the movie seems set to take a tragic turn for the worst. Until… the Blue Fairy decides to resurrect him as a real boy, flesh and blood. Very benevolent on her part but it contradicts her promise to never help again. She is the definition of a Deus ex Machina. She is the solution to all problems presented: lifeless puppet, overgrown nose, locked cage, man-eating whale, or death. She is the benevolent solution and in so doing, provided Pinocchio with the rebirth he needed (notice his donkey ears and tail are gone) and he is set to live happily ever after.

But just him.

Pinocchio can live. The other boys… not so much. And this is where Pinocchio does what no Disney film has ever done and will ever do in the future, they allowed the tragedy to continue. All other Disney villains were punished accordingly, facing justice in one way or another. Pinocchio features more than one villain and they all got away with it. Only Pinocchio got through the ordeal. More unsuspecting kids will be taken away, the rest of the donkeys are set to work as slaves in the salt mines and that is just the ones who can not speak. The ones who still speak like that poor little Alexander (the one donkey in all of fiction that probably wrenches hearts just thinking about him), are unaccounted for.

Alexander
“Take him back! He can still talk!”

We do not know what happens to them. But if the Coachman intends to keep them silent, the only way out is death. Even by the end, the Coachman is not punished, the donkeys are never freed and Stromboli is still out there to abuse other actors and actresses that come his way, Honest John and Gideon will continue luring stupid little boys into their traps, and that’s just how the world is. The Coachman got away with slavery and possible pedophilia and murder. So realistic, isn’t it?

Disney tends to give a happily ever after, not just for the main character but for the entire Kingdom it is set in, if not the world. Even Hunchback had the decency to give a showy happy ending with singing and dancing for all of Paris after the fiery, infernal battle with Judge Claude Frollo. Pinocchio is the one and only exception. The slaver, child-trafficker, pedophile, murderer, or all four is still out there and till now remains the only Disney villain to get away with what he did. And what he did is pretty terrible and tragic. Tragic enough when looked at on the surface, more so when one looks under the dark coat. Who could be called by some as the most truly evil Disney villain who caused massive and unrepaired damage got away with it. These days, if Disney even tried that, they’ll have the kids they so explicitly and implicitly insulted camping out in protest.

In conclusion, this movie is a truly a fantastic, dark work of art. The movie tells the biggest truth of them all, and in so doing lives up to its name. While all other Disney movies flaunt the lie that is happily ever after, Pinocchio gives it to the audience straight. Happily ever after only for some people. Not for everyone. And for those who do manage, it takes lies to get there. It takes pain, blood, sweat, tears and abuse before you get there and once you do, you are scarred. The rest… they are put to work like slaves and those who have even the capability to protest the conditions they are put in are silenced. The movie does a good job of hiding it because the darkest story ever told by Disney is covered with darkness itself. In the end, the only happy people are Pinocchio and Gepetto. Everyone else is miserable.

Pinocchio Donkeys
Whatever happened to these little guys. They can still talk!

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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55 Comments

  1. The funny thing about Pinocchio is that I didn’t see it until I was in my late teens despite having been in a production of Pinocchio (not the Disney version, but an adaptation of the story. I played a spooky clown at Pleasure Island) and having read the original Collodi tale. I always wondered how I would have viewed the film as a child.

    • Adnan Bey

      I have friends who didn’t see the Hunchback till later too. But take it from someone who loved Pinocchio as a child (and still do as an adult) you don’t catch these things. They’re portrayed as bad things to do and if anything influenced me to be a good boy myself, lol. I have a real history with Pinocchio and I love the movie dearly.

  2. Lorraine
    0

    Not one of the villains in this film gets what they have coming. They just get away with their actions. Honest John tricks Pinocchio… twice, Stromboli imprisons Pinoke, and The Coachman transforms boys into donkeys and sells them. Not one of them sees any retribution. Unusual for a Disney film, no? Usually the bad guy always gets it in the end.

    • Adnan Bey

      Exactly my point. And you notice that Pinocchio also has it more difficult than other Disney protagonists in a certain way. Sure he doesn’t have to face a dragon but hey, at least Phillip was well equipped. Pinocchio has to face the world itself and needed to be rescued one too many times by the Fairy herself. Even the Fairy Godmother let Cinderella go it alone.

    • Angela Sherman
      0

      Yeah but think about it this way the story was not about defeating evil it was about staying away from it or if you do indulge in it consequences will follow. The same thing happened in the book as well. This is how most fairy tales played out in those days.

      • Adnan Bey

        Yes, but see I’m speaking mainly about Disney films. Pinocchio is the only Disney movie to do this. Honestly, Tarzan was not really about defeating villains either and lo, Clayton still got the axe.

      • That’s just my take, but Pinocchio wasn’t raised. He was created from scratch and had no idea of what was right or wrong, so much that the blue fairy had to give him a separate conscience that was not even a part of his body (the cricket). So is it really right to say it was Pinocchio’s fault that he strayed towards “evil”? The boy had literally no idea what a school was before he was being sent to one. Of course, maybe “stay away from evil or face consequences” was really disney’s intention at that time and context, but NOWADAYS can we really say that? Can we really say that it’s a ~child~’s fault if something this dark happens to them and not the adult’s? I don’t really think so.

    • Pinocchio isn’t the only film that has the villain not getting his comeuppance. “It’s a Wonderful Life” also follows the same aesthetic with mean old Mr. Potter. He uses that rather underhanded tactic to try and ruin George Bailey, and in the end, it is the good will that George has showered on his family and friends that saves the day. I know on the IAWL board, there are threads that pop up wondering why Potter never received punishment.

  3. This, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, and Atlantis are among Disney’s darkest films.

    • Adnan Bey

      The Hunchback certainly. As for Tarzan and Atlantis… do tell. By all means. I am very interested.

    • Adalberto
      1

      I agree…. though I haven’t seen atlantis. Notre dame is so sad! However I think there is something a lot darker about the older disneys snow white for example, you wouldn’t catch someone trying to stab someones heart nowadays in Disney!

      • Adnan Bey

        Good point. Taking a heart out… wow. I’ve heard of a broken heart but that was ridiculous. Early Disney films were seriously dark.

    • Yeah. And let’s not forget certain portions of Fantasia. I mean you really don’t see any of their films tackling the kind of stuff they did in the Night on Bald Mountain (Though Hunchback came pretty close.)

  4. Avery Moreau
    0

    I haven’t seen this since I was a kid. I watched it recently and I forgot how dark it is! It’s all well and good that Pinocchio and company survived, but what about the hundreds of kids getting sold into donkey slavery? That part is really disturbing.

    • Adnan Bey

      That’s exactly what gets to me as well. And honestly, the fates of those kids disturbed me even as a child but it was not until I became an adult when I realized how dire things were really were for them.

    • That part really disturbed me when I was little, I refused to watch it for years and I’d run out of the room or hide under the covers whenever my siblings would put it on and that scene would come on, I’d also have recurring nightmares about being turned into a donkey and being shoved into a crate sometimes along with my siblings and cousins.

  5. The main point of the film is Pinocchio’s coming of age, learning from mistakes, saving his master, and finally becoming a boy.

  6. Michael Krebs

    Interesting article, gives me something to think about! I have not watched the film since I was young but I do remember being terrified and felt embarrassed and awkward when the Pleasure Island scene started. It is a brutally honest scene and I have never revisited the movie since. I have never evaluated the movie as an adult but I am not surprised that you’ve found some of the adult themes like human trafficking and pedophilia. I do think the Blue Fairy plays an important role here, she seems to be the mentor for Pinnochio. No matter what kind of mistakes he makes or what kind of choices he makes she is there to help guide him the best she can. I think that’s a very important role that is required for this movie, the world is a tough place to live sometimes but all we can do is roll with the punches and make the best of it.

  7. Adnan Bey

    Now you mention it, I remember being terrified too. Every time, even though I knew Pinocchio would escape because I watched it ten times, I prayed and prayed that Pinocchio would be ok. The Fairy is a very important god-like figure for him. Or, goddess. Her very direct role in giving him life and saving his life, as a sort of model of goodness despite all odds against him in the most dire of situations, he needed her desperately.

    Please Island was very honest, open and direct with everyone, kids and adults alike. Kids found something to be scared of adults found something else, including but not limited to slavery and pedophilia.

  8. I tried watching this movie as a teen, years ago. But I found it too “Dated”, and not entertaining enough for me.

    I just watched it finally again: Wow, it’s really powerful! Well, first the flaws: it CAN be a little slow, particularly the scenes involving that Bad Fox and Stromboli… not that compelling. And it was kind of funny/lazy how a magical bird just sent a note to Pinocchio to tell him that Gepetto was swallowed by a whale, ha. That would not work in a contemporary movie, as continuity lol.

    But the strengths… beautifully animated, with great opportunities for wonderful artwork: Gepetto’s workshop, the village, Pleasure Island, and the underwater scenes are quite beautiful.

  9. kbarak

    I taught a Disney Films class last year and my students (18-adult) HATED Pinocchio and Dumbo with equal vigor. Yet the discussion was stifled because nobody could articulate quite why they had such dramatic reactions. One student simply stated, “This isn’t what Disney is all about,” which instigated a great conversation about audience expectations, brand, original material, etc. Anyway, I wish I’d had this analysis to give them a framework to understand what’s going on here! The sense of tragedy/loss/exploitation in Dumbo and injustice/darkness in Pinocchio drag viewers into affects they might not have expected in a Disney film. As you point out, many of the more recent films tie up all the loose ends or even offer perspectives that explain why “bad” behavior is a reaction to some other inequality (I’m thinking of Maleficent here). It’s an interesting piece of the Disney canon. I look forward to rewatching with your analysis in mind.

    • Adnan Bey

      Thank you so much. It means a lot. I am quite surprised because I personally LOVE Pinocchio but I have a friend who does dislike it. I do find these types of discussions quite stimulating though. I envy your participation in such a discussion. I haven’t seen Maleficent yet but the idea does somewhat bother me. I’ll need to read a review or something because what I liked about rthe villain was her theatrical villainy. I didn’t need/want to know why she is evil. But your students were right about one thing. Pinocchio is a film that does stuff Disney never does. As for Dumbo, I don’t really remember it much but now you mention it, I forgot about Dumbo. An argument can be made that there is no villain in that movie though.

      • I would wager the entire circus (animal slavery) industry is high up on the scale of villainous activity.

        • I might also mention watching Dumbo as an adult.

          I cried– more than I did during any other Disney film–as a child, later as a teenager, and even now as an adult. The injustices towards animals are as real and now as they were then.

  10. Amanda Dominguez-Chio

    I really enjoyed reading your article. I especially enjoyed reading your discussion on how the Coachman lures boys, thus representing child trafficking. I never noticed the dark elements depicted in the film, but I’m glad you pointed them out!

    • Adnan Bey

      I never noticed them myself until the last time I watched it about 3-4 years ago. Interestingly enough, it was my brother who pointed the pedophilia thing out but it took much more expansion than the Pleasure Island thing.

  11. There’s the 1970’s Italian cartoon Un burattino di nome Pinocchio, it is very accurate to the book which is very dark the only part missing pretty much is where Pinocchio bites off the cat’s hand, the funny thing about it is Pinocchio looks like a girl his coat looks like a dress and he wears a pink bonnet.

  12. Helen Parshall

    This article is fascinating to me… I think with how long its been since I last watched Pinocchio I’ve managed to iron out the details into much brighter things in my head. Some of the movies from childhood are actually terrifying to revisit.. This was not one that would have popped into my head until now. Thank you for your thoughtful insight and analysis! You’ve given me quite a lot to think about!

  13. August Merz

    My dad absolutely despises Pinocchio, in large part because it was such a dark film. In particular, he got mad at the scene that depicted the kids smoking cigars because when I saw it as a kid, I started picking up objects and pretended to smoke them. Other than that, he was also offended at how some of the shots of Pinocchio when he’s unconscious and lying in the water. They just looked so gruesome to be in a family/kids movie. It’s funny how that’s where he drew the line when so many other Disney films have equally dark elements. Personally, I never thought much of Pinocchio, but perhaps if I saw it again I could somehow appreciate the dark parts for being faithful to the dark nature of classic children’s stories a la the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christen Anderson.

  14. Riviera Handley
    Riviera De TyTy
    0

    Thanks for the nostalgia!

  15. Candice Evenson

    First of all, it has been a LOOONG time since I saw this movie because I really detested it. I detested feeling helpless in Pinocchio’s shoes.

    When I was little this movie I always blamed Gepetto for not going back and saving all the other boys who had been turned into donkeys. Then I realized that they all must have had family too. The disturbing part is that these boys were rebels and troublemakers who resented their family–Pleasure island is all about indulging in those things parents restrict you from. And their family cannot protect them anymore because they willingly rejected that protection.

    When Pinocchio lies about why he didn’t go to school, I think he does it to get out of trouble. So, saying that they were monsters is a lie because of the connotation and the deception behind it: Pinocchio wants to suggest coercion rather than the embarrassing truth of being tricked. When he says that he was put in a sack, rather than a cage, he once again loses responsibility because his sight is impaired. Including that Jiminy was caught too is his way of saying that his conscience was out of his reach–a way to completely avoid the blame that he anticipates from the Fairy. He wants to please her. IN a last ditch effort to appear the victim in the trail of events that he enjoyed up till the end while not going to school as he was told, Pinocchio lies about being chopped into fire wood–even though it is clear that he is whole. His growing nose makes it so that he cannot hide. It reveals his guilt and emphasizes the point that the original question was why he did not go to school. The lesson is that lying cannot protect you, and Pinocchio is destined to endure more dire situations when this becomes apparent.

    I really like your points on Pinocchio and the other boys being “scarred” by their experience and that means they become donkeys. I also think it’s interesting that you bring up his death, although…. Can a wooden puppet die? Well, he returns to the form he once had, and rather than “helping him” against her word the fairy just fulfills her earlier promise. She isn’t bringing him back to life but rather rewarding him with life. She did not do this in the first place because perhaps she knew he was gullible and foolhardy and might die before actually enjoying life. Keeping him in the form of a wooden puppet, then, was a form of protection until he “came of age” as someone else said.

    ~Constellation

  16. There is oone point to this story that is entirely missed altogether. Gepetto just sends Pinocchio, a new life, into the world without any advice or guidelines of what to avoid altogether.

  17. Another thing to point out, in pleasure island the kids dont do anithing bad “per se” (except destruction), they gamble, play pool, drink and smoke. Those arent bad things (stay with me in this one), but things that you do when you are a grown up. You need the maturity and wisdom that come with age to be able to safely do all of those things, to gamble without being an addict, to drink without being an alcoholic, or… to have sex without being coerced. Again, this is all about the “they do not come back as BOYS”, is all about the scars that leaves an adult stealing away the innocence of a little boy.
    I didnt like too much this movie, nor dumbo. Now everything makes sense.

    Great article by the way

  18. Thank you, really! This is very interesting. As a little kid I used to watch Pinocchio often, and I remember I didn’t find it (nor I did with Dumbo )so dark as Snowhite or The Sleeping Beauty, I only remember this strange feeling… like if I was watching something forbidden, too much harsh, bigger than me. Now, watching it again, and reading your article, I know the reason and the essence of those feelings 🙂 . We all are just little Pinocchios. (I’m sorry for my English LOL).

  19. vegreen

    This is an interesting take on the film. I never quite noticed how awful the people around Pinocchio were.

  20. Matthew
    0

    Good commentary and thorough analysis. However, I didn’t see any evidence that the coachman was a pedophile. I think he solely wanted to turn the boys into donkeys to sell them. Luring them with treats is characteristic of pedophiles, yes, but in this context it seems it was simply to turn them into donkeys so he could sell them. As for the ones who could still talk, I had thought- although I could be wrong- that he was just holding them there until they, too, lost their ability to speak.
    Also, at the end, it seems everyone interprets Pinocchio as having died when I had thought it was just knocked unconscious or maybe a coma. I’ll be unhappy with Disney if he had actual death in mind here. But yes, the pleasure island sequence has often stuck out in my mind.

  21. I have long detested Pinocchio because of its darkness. Also, I believe Pinocchio’s task is not just impossible because he is asked to do what other people can do – he is asked to do it without actually having a real conscience. He doesn’t really even understand right and wrong, that’s why Jiminy has to be assigned to him. How can Pinocchio be faulted for any of his choices when the Blue Fairy did not provide him with the tools he needed to make those choices.

  22. Emiliano
    0

    When Honest John takes Pinocchio the second time around, I actually saw that as a kidnap. Sure he distracts him a lot with his doctor game but in the end he holds him against his will more than once and when they take him away it’s not willingly. Even if he would have wanted to escape, they wouldn’t have let him!!
    So after reading this I think that, what’s actually even darker is that they can kidnap him again, just as easily after the movie ends and he resumes his life as a little defenseless kid.

  23. I AGREE WITH YOU COMPLETELY ON EVERYTHING, ESPECIALLY OF THE VILLIANS. I WATCHED THIS MOVIE LAST NIGHT FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE IN ALMOST 20 YEARS.. I’m 26 now.. and the movie freaked me out last night more than it did when I was a kid. I found it utterly disturbing, but still love it. there are so many subliminal messages in Disney movies, more so the older ones which is why they aren’t just for kids, but for adults too. children and even teens are so naïve and oblivious to life in general, not to mention Disney movies. there is way more symbolism and foreshadowing in these classics than we ever knew, making them very similar to George Orwell’s (animated) Animal Farm.. lol. which is also for adults, yet kids will enjoy too but in their own way- a much less understanding of why. Another important thing to add is The Blue fairy in Pinocchio is teaching him the lesson of life. And Disney is trying to teach little boys (and girls) the lesson of life AND TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for your own actions and not blame others, but be accountable. Pinocchio tries to blame Honest John saying he kidnapped him, when really Honest John wasn’t a very bright guy himself thus couldn’t take advantage of Pinoke IF he would’ve just said “no, I’m going to school and that’s final now leave me alone.” Blue Fairy was simply saying do not lie, do not blame others for your actions and when you misbehave. Now obviously all this what happened to Pinocchio was all ‘worst case scenario’ BUT it sort of prepares one for life on these things can happen. so be wise, listen to your conscience. follow your gut instinct, if something doesn’t feel right (Honest john, Stromboli, The Coachmen) etc, then it probably isn’t.. since Pinocchio didn’t have parents to upbring him with values, morals, etc. he only had this short time to prove himself. he got put into the world blindly and bluntly and got one too many curve balls thrown at him, such as life. now of course when you’re little you have no idea what the F is going on, but you just get scared. I will always love Disney movies.. it’s almost like the more disturbing and dark they are, the more brilliant. Walt Disney was indeed a genius. Great article by the way, I really enjoyed reading it 🙂

    • **I meant to say Pinocchio tries to blame Honest John and Stromboli to the blue Fairy.. sure they WERE monsters, but he was sort of saying nothing was his fault so he was lying and his nose grew. you know just like how kids do when they get in trouble they will try to blame their friend or the other guy, but they will learn quick they cannot do this and cannot snitch, for if they don’t learn to take responsibility as children they will have a hell of a time as adults. Remember the first time Honest John manipulates Pinoke and Jiminy for a second looks at the camera and goes “oh no! I need to go tell his father!!” then pauses and says “wait no, that would be snitching! i’ll handle this myself!” again I think an important message to take responsibility and don’t tell on someone… I would love to hear your response to this. thank! 🙂

  24. sorry for my grammatical errors. I am reading over this and am thinking how embarrassing. that’s what I get for being sleep deprived.

  25. I hated Pinocchio as a kid because of the donkey transformation scene. I cried whenever the Coachman came on the scene and was abusing the boys now turned into donkeys

    Another movie I never liked was Bambi and I guess it was because Bambi’s mother dying offscreen never had an effect on me. There was a storybook of bambi I read with my grandmother as a child I still have which hinted the possibility she wasn’t dead it said something like the hunter had caught her and now Bambi was all alone

    Just my two cents on the movie

  26. Jaye Freeland

    Whoa. Nice Work! I haven’t watched Pinocchio since I was little but I’ll definitely have to revisit it now.

  27. Melanie B.
    1

    I agree that this movie is Disney’s darkest. I was always sensitive, and the thought of those boys, suddenly repentent and weeping “I want my momma!” just cut me to the heart. Who among us has not forgotten our good values at time, and just decided to indulge? Pinocchio may get second chances, but not these boys. There is no mercy for them, no one to help turn them onto the straight and narrow path. The movie almost implies that they are “good for nothing” and would only be a blight on society anyway– that they fully deserve the fate they get. Otherwise, the truth the viewer must face is too terrible.

    All this seems even stranger when you consider that the movie’s most famous song, “When You Wish Upon A Star” is pretty much the unofficial anthem of the Disney company. A little clip of it plays in the “Disney Intro” (fireworks behind Cinderella Castle) shown before all movies made by Disney.

  28. Reality check
    0

    There’s a darker ending to the after film sequence. Gepetto is a weirdo and people probably know that. When he starts jabbering about a boy made of wood and is now his son he’ll likely get thrown into an asylum and pinocchio will end up in a workhouse.

  29. Stephen
    0

    Powerful and revelatory excavation into the depth of the human condition, as only a master story teller could reveal guised as a fairytale.

  30. Jasmine
    0

    Good essay, but I suggest you be more accurate when referring to things such as ‘pedophilia’. I think what you actually mean is child molestation/forced sex work. Pedophilia is a very stigmatized psychiatric disorder in which one feels sexual attraction to children. It is not necessarily the act of sexual behaviors with children. Many pedophiles never act on and go to great difficulties to overcome these attractions, and must face the status of assumed child molester that misuses of the term exactly like this create for them.

  31. Destiny
    0

    This is just sad. People see these things, yet continue to let their children watch

  32. I also found Disney Wiki’s analysis of their own movie a bit of an interesting read, particularly this chunk:

    “Origin–
    In Italy, where the original story was written, the Donkey is a symbol of stupidity. The moral behind Pleasure Island (or “Toyland” as it was called in the original) is that little boys who scoff at education and moral codes set forth by their parents, preachers and authority figures and instead engage in “jackass” behavior such as fighting, vandalism and underage drinking are often destined to grow up to become men who have no option to make a living except through backbreaking manual labor. And there are plenty of people in the world, such as the Coachman, who will take advantage of that.”

  33. D. Cook
    0

    OMG I hated this book…It was just a little-kid creepy vibe… Never saw the movie…. NOW I get it.

  34. Tracy
    0

    You HAVE to watch this lecture “Jordan Peterson – On Pinocchio”:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YhVruKGkjs

    Enjoy!

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